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Colorado Capital Congress helps startups access funding

There's a plethora of startups in Colorado and they're all in various stages of growth. With that growth comes the need for capital to hire more employees, increase marketing, boost sales, launch new initiatives, etc. Denver's Colorado Capital Congress PCB (Public Benefit Corporation) is trying to address those needs. It will host a workshop, Crowdfunding Colorado Style, Jan. 31 in Louisville to help entrepreneurs and investors understand more of their options for raising funds.

"In an industry where it is considered acceptable for over 95 percent of capital presentations to be turned down, any improvement will have tremendous positive impact on our economy," says Karl Dakin, Colorado Capital Congress co-founder and president. "Higher quality capital transactions will make our State more attractive to both entrepreneurs and investors."

The organization is working to foster local capital communities helping businesses find appropriate capital sources. The stated goal: "Where no source exists, the Colorado Capital Congress will work to establish new funds or financing programs."

Sometimes that's just a matter of awareness. "One of the ways to improve the capital ecosystem is to make everyone aware of different approaches to obtaining and funding capital," Dakin explains.

"One approach is the little known Limited Registration Offering," Dakin says, which allows companies to raise funds in a way that is exempt from SEC regulations because it is an in-state sale of securities that can only be conducted between Colorado residents or entities. The law requires that the offering can't be publicized and can only be promoted to people and entities that the offering party knows. In addition, only 35 non-accredited investors can participate.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Rapidly growing Choozle closes $4.1M funding round

Denver startup Choozle announced that it closed a $4.1 million Series A round of financing with Great Oaks Venture Capital and other investors. The financing will allow the company to continue to support its growth streak.

Since launching out of beta last March with about 20 test users, including Dick's Sporting Goods and Merriam-Webster, the company has attracted more than 100 clients. Today it counts among its clients Cricket Wireless, Gaiam, SendGrid, Willow Tree and more.

The company's programmatic advertising platform and tools have resonated with businesses, according to Choozle co-founder and CEO Andrew Fischer. In all, 95 percent of Choozle's customers have retained its services, which start at $199 a month.

Fischer credits his team with building the highly retained services. "Combining data with real time advertising has really helped us in the marketplace," he says. The team also is working to integrate all the social media platforms into its services.

"Part of our market position is about simplicity. As the ad tech industry has grown, it's grown in complexity," Fischer says. Some of Choozle's clients are just entering into the programmatic ad space, however, and don't need overly complex services.

The downtown Denver-based company doubled its staff over the past year to 16 people, Fischer says. "We'll probably double again by the end of the year based on our trajectory," he asserts.

The majority of new hires will be in Denver, which is forcing the young company to move to new a spot downtown, but the company already has employees in New York and San Francisco, with plans to expand internationally.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

TEDx coming to RiNo with reIMAGINE in April

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks are among the most popular ways to get innovative ideas out to the public spectrum. So it’s no surprise that TEDx, which supports local versions of the national events, is coming to RiNo -- one of Denver’s up and coming innovation centers, through the first TEDxRiNo event on Apr. 13.

The first event, reIMAGINE, is intended to cover topics relevant to the RiNo community and to spark meaningful conversation and collaboration to benefit the community, explains, Kimothy Pikor TEDxRiNo’s chief dreamer.

"We'd like to try and source as many speakers who have a vested interest in the RiNo community. However, we are welcoming speaker nominations from the greater Denver and Colorado community, as well," she says. "It's a venue to share the art district's creativity, innovation, and smart urban growth on the global TED platform -- to connect with other communities internationally via unbiased ideation."

TEDxRiNo isn’t the first TEDx group in Colorado, Pikor explains. "The largest organization is TEDxMileHigh, which hosts several events annually for several hundred attendees." She adds that that organization has been extremely supportive of TEDxRiNo, but says TEDx agreed that the River North Art District is different in tone, growth, residents/businesses and appearance compared to the rest of Denver, allowing RiNo to create its own chapter. "Our events will be reflective of this in the way that they are smaller (100 attendees max), highly attended by the arts community, and more intimate."

The deadline for speaker submissions and/or nominations is Jan. 23, 2015. Following the submission deadline, a panel will select six to eight speakers to present "the talk of their lives." Each will have up to 18 minutes to present.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Parametrix 3D-prints Denver skyline

Parametrix is a Denver startup making printed 3D products like pots and practical items like replacement lids for Nalgene bottles.

Josh and Haley Goldstein, husband and wife and architect and graphic designer, respectively, own the company. Josh makes the designs using algorithmic scripts and his wife designs the packaging and is doing the marketing.

Parametrix's 3D-printed lifestyle products are the first of their kind to make it into I Heart Denver. Parametrix also offers the design files for sale as well, allowing others to print their own items based on Josh's scripts with the appropriate software and a 3D printer.

"We were not the first ones to approach them with 3D-printed products," Josh says. "We managed to impress them . . . . Our products have resonated and we can't keep up with demand."

"The I Heart Denver store has really broadened our reach, and we're proud to partner with them to get our products out there," Josh says. While the company also offers digital files of the scripts, it hasn't taken off yet. "More people need to buy 3D printers first," he says.

Currently they have a modest line of products for sale, but there are more on the way. "We actually have over 30 products designed that we use in our Denver condo, but since it's just my wife and I working on this stuff, finding the time to photograph and market them has been tough," Goldstein says. "We will be releasing some products for the kitchen, as well as some new Denver-themed products. We also dedicate some time to updating existing designs -- adding buildings and refining the Denver Cityscape product, as well as redesigning and improving other products like the planter."

While the couple are building their company, they also still have day jobs. Haley works with a telecommunications firm and Josh an architecture firm. He's used their printer to produce some pieces for his firm, but most of the work he's enjoyed doing has been in industrial design. "I am trying to build enough interest in 3D printing to convince the firm to get a machine of their own that I can help run."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado launches #StateOfKind challenge with Denver-based Wayin

In Gov. John Hickenlooper's second inaugural address he set forth a challenge for all Coloradans: to collectively perform 10,000 acts of kindness by the Biennial of the Americas in on July 14. Participation is simple, thanks to Denver's Wayin, which aggregates social media content.

Participants will perform an act of goodwill then use the hashtag #StateOfKind. Wayin collects the information and posts it to www.stateofkind.co which has a counter showing how many acts of kindness its recorded.

These don't have to be huge acts of kindness. For instance, one user posted: "Had a very kind gentleman offer me his seat on the bus ride home today." And another, from a native Tongan said: "I wrote a letter to my mom saying how much I appreciate and love her." The author goes on to say they don't express love much there.

"The social platforms included in the State Of Kind experience are Twitter, Vine, Facebook and Instagram," explains Wayin VP of Client Engineering and Operation Nate Frick. "Additionally, the team at the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is compiling random acts of kindness sent to them via email and including those in their own tweets, which are counted in the campaign." 

Wayin's customers include The Weather Channel, MLB and other outlets -- customers that want access to real-time information, so it's used to the aggregating content quickly. "Wayin can display social content in real time, regardless of the device or screen," Frick says. "We make it easy for our clients to discover their desired conversation pieces quickly, select the most compelling contributions, and provide a way to moderate for any sensitive media or strong language."

Currently the project is only collecting the stories and quotes, according to Frick. "Our focus today is on providing a destination site for this incredible initiative, helping to drive as many social contributions as possible, and seeing other states accept Colorado's challenge," he says.

The project is part of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a Denver-based foundation dedicated to encourage benevolence. Wayin will provide services for the campaign throughout the U.S. Future campaigns will launch to coincide with Random Acts of Kindness Week Feb. 9-15, Frick says. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Funnybone Toys marches forward with two new games for 2015

Building on the success of its current line of games and interactive toys, Funnybone Toys is getting ready to introduce toy new games for 2015, Juxtabo and Spectracube. The new toys will start hitting stores in February following Toy Fair New York.

Both games are are intended for people as young as 6 and offer challenges for people much older. With Juxtabo, the board is actually made out of the puzzle pieces, two-sided discs with different colors on each side. "Juxtabo is for people who like chess, checkers and other games," Funnybone Toys founder Julien Sharp. "You get these pieces and build the board out of them."

Players must match the color and pattern presented on cards and the player who collects the most cards wins. As board grows it can resemble a mountain range or other 3D structures.

Spectracube has 30 dice-like cubes, half with primary colors, the other half with secondary colors. "There are six games in one," Sharp says. However, users, particularly children, are encouraged to use the cubes to create their own games with the cubes, she adds.

The company is building on its previous success. Its other games, Funnybones, Disruptus, Arrazzles and others have all won multiple awards. Most of the company's games are intended for a family audience, but not Disruptus. "That particular game is really for the corporate world," Sharp says. "The others are more for family fun, getting kids to think." She's spoken at numerous business conferences about using Disruptus in the corporate world.

The next step for Funnybone Toys is more submissions. "Our games consistently win," Sharp says. "I'll be submitting them to MENSA. We might have a nice chance there and with Dr. Toy."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Luxury box broker SuiteHop hiring in 2015 with $1M in new funding

SuiteHop recently secured another $1 million in equity funding that will allow the Denver-based luxury suite broker to make new hires and expand marketing and operations. The company has also added more than $5 million of inventory in terms of booking luxury suites and boxes at sports and entertainment venues across the U.S.

The company now has inventory from more than 550 events, ranging from the Denver Broncos' playoff game on Jan. 11 (tickets start at $1,800) to Linkin Park and Rise Against at NYC's Barclays Center on Jan. 25 (tickets start at $225). The company works with event centers and suite owners to sell tickets in luxury suites that may not go used for whatever reason, seats that most people don't have easy access to.

"SuiteHop is changing the market for suite tickets by providing a way for companies and individuals to purchase luxury suite tickets without having to go through a broker," says SuiteHop CEO Todd Lindenbaum. "Our investors can see the value in a service that provides a benefit to lease owners, potential suite buyers, arena owners and the teams themselves. We expect in the coming months to see even more additions to our large inventory." 

The company is attracting investments from entrepreneurs as well as from the technology and service sectors. "SuiteHop has a great business model that just makes sense. It is perfect for small to mid-sized businesses that want access to suites but can't afford leasing an entire suite for a year," explains investor Jeff Kurtzman, co-founder of Better World Books and Operation Incubation.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Want to make Denver even better? Rose Community Foundation aims to help with new grants

Denver's getting bigger and better in many ways, but Rose Community Foundation is betting that people have ideas that can help make it even better. That's why it's launching the Innovate for Good grant program, which will award up to 10 grants totaling $250,000.

The grants will be awarded to fund projects that answer the question: "What new and innovative idea would you bring to life to make the greater Denver community a better place to live?" The program is open to artists, engineers, nonprofits, neighborhood associations, teenagers, retirees -- you name it. Proposals must make a positive, measurable difference within one year and focus on new, creative programs, products or services and/or new approaches to addressing a need in the greater Denver community.

"This is a new kind of project for Rose Community Foundation and we are very excited at the energy and enthusiasm it is already fueling," said Sheila Bugdanowitz, the foundation's president and CEO. "We think it is important to hear from and connect to people and organizations we might not reach through our typical grantmaking process. We can't wait to see what ideas come in from all over the greater Denver community!"

The foundation began accepting proposals for the grants on Jan. 6 and will accept them through Feb. 2. The proposals will be reviewed by a diverse committee of community members and the foundation. The organization plans select semi-finalists in late February. Finalists will present a live pitch at Rose Community Foundation's 20th Anniversary celebration in June 2015, at which point grant winners will be announced.

Rose Community Foundation is accepting ideas via its website. The foundation will respond to questions about the Innovate for Good grant program at innovateforgood@rcfdenver.org.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

BiggerPockets helps real estate investors grow

Just like Denver's real estate market, BiggerPockets is booming. The company's podcasts are currently the most popular real estate podcasts on iTunes, with 40,000 downloads per show. It also adds around 300 members a day to its online community, which has more than 1 million forum posts.

The company, founded by Joshua Dorkin, is aimed at helping people understand what it takes to invest in real estate as well as find others to work with on investments and learn from others' experiences.

"BiggerPockets members help one another to be successful by selflessly sharing their learned knowledge and the community spirit breeds success for those who give back," Dorkin explains. "Our active members attribute countless millions in profits to their participation on our platform and we only anticipate that growing over time."

"BiggerPockets is primarily focused on real estate in the U.S., but our users are found throughout the globe," Dorkin adds. "The U.S. real estate market is admired around the world and our platform helps investors, both foreign and domestic, to learn, to network, and to do business with one another."

The company is continuing to grow, according to Dorkin. He says it hired four employees in 2014 and plans to hire more positions in 2015 including positions in web development, user interface designers, and online marketing and sales.

Although Dorkin notes that the company could be located just about anywhere, being in Denver has some advantages beyond its weather and lifestyle. "As a growing tech hub, Denver does give us access to a larger pool of technical talent and a network of other startups to connect with," he says. He adds that its central location in the U.S. also makes it easier to travel to other markets.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Puzzah! brings the room escape concept off the screen and into reality

Downtown Denver's got a new private eye, you! If you've ever wandered into one of those 'room escape' games on the Internet, you'll get the basic idea behind the "Tick Tock" room at Puzzah!, except for one big twist -- you're in the puzzle and it's not online. It's the first interactive puzzle for the recently launched startup and an interesting way to experience a game.

The puzzle in this case is trying to dismantle a bomb set by a composer driven insane by rejections from the Denver Performing Arts Center. Players work together as a team, to solve puzzles that engage them mentally and physically, primarily through audible clues. They have 60 minutes to stop the bomb, before ker-plooyee! or before they make a mistake that ends in ker-plooyee! (Confluence Denver's crack team of detectives ker-plooyeed, by the way.) 

While the whole experience is unique, what's just as interesting is the technology behind it. Designed by the Puzzah! team, the software actually adjusts the game room -- don't worry, it's not an Orwellian mechano-nightmare of a room -- to the players' abilities, offering more or fewer clues based on their ability to solve the puzzles.

Puzzah! is aiming the interactive puzzles as fun way to work together with friends, family and coworkers to develop problem solving skills and engage in team building exercises. The puzzles are designed to hold up to five adults. Currently the company only has one game room, but its second room, "The Steal," already is under construction. What exactly it's about is still a mystery.

Puzzah! also has a small gift shop and waiting room in the front where people can check out and purchase other puzzles. They include classics like Rubik's Cubes and nail puzzles.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Green Machine, an automated grow room system, funded through Kickstarter

Grow rooms, even personal grow rooms, for growing marijuana and other crops hydroponically indoors are expensive and can require a lot of attention.

A recently fully-funded Kickstarter project "How to Grow the Greenest Green" is a 14-week educational program that uses videos to show people how to build a grow room for about $600.

Similarly sized home grow kits -- about the size of a closet -- run for more than $2,000 and don’t include an educational component that guides users through the process of not only building the device, but using it to grow marijuana and other plants

Lucas Powell and Ryan Woltz say they developed the system and guides after finding scant information about developing home-based grow rooms for marijuana, even though it’s now legal in Colorado and other some other states. Best thing is the video-guided  courses and PDFs only cost $30 and it shows DIYers how to construct and build a fully automated system that interacts with smartphones.

"The technology aspect of our project is that we're teaching people how to turn a traditional cannabis home grow into an 'Internet of Things' connected device," Powell says.

The automated device is controlled by an Arduino computer and various sensors help monitor the plants growing in the closet-sized box. "Not only has a course like this never been offered before but this is actually the first marijuana cultivation course that has ever been put on Kickstarter," he adds.

Though the project already is fully funded already, people can participate in the Kickstarter before Jan. 6, 2015. In addition to the basic instructions, people can also get the Master Grower instructions, which includes more information about more advanced growing and automation techniques.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Booming OneReach melds calls and texts for customer service

Customer service is a pain point for customers and companies alike. In response, Denver's OneReach offers a tool that allows companies to interact with their customers via SMS and call center.

"We've built a web application that makes it very easy for companies to create any sort of custom SMS or call in solutions whether it's inbound or outbound," explains OneReach Managing Partner Elias Parker. The tool makes it easier to integrate Twilio, the engine behind Uber's ability to connect riders with drivers. "It's a development platform that makes it easier to custom code any text messaging solutions," Parker says.

"OneReach is an end-user solution that allows companies to create those same types of custom text message solutions without writing them," Parker says. "We're thought of as the Twillio UI."

As positive reviews of its services and bigger clients have come in, the four-year-old company has realized faster growth. Parker says it grew by 34 percent in the past year, swelling to 27 employees at its new office in Sunnyside.

"We just moved a month ago," he says. "We were in Galvanize in a private office. For at least half of it we were sitting on each other. We would have to ask people to work from home and have people working out of the common space because it was so full."

With service packages starting at $22 a month the company has a wide range of clients, including National Geographic, United Nations World Food Program and Re/Max. "Some clients are really small, some are huge," says Parker. "They range from a small chain of coffee shops in Denver to a massive company that has thousands of customer support people."

The company is also looking ahead to the next steps. "In the future, hopefully in the near-term road map, we'll releasing a more mobile-friendly solution but for the time being it's accessed via a web browser on laptop or desktop," Parker says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Jiberish gets technical with Grand Cru outerwear line

Denver's Jiberish has entered into a new market for the urban/extreme-skiing garment startup company—technical outerwear. Earlier this fall the company introduced its Grand Cru line.

The new line starts at $275 for The Corton, an extended-length, insulated shirt that's also comes as a button-out layer for the company's $850 flagship coat, The La Tache. The line of five coats embodies a look that's home in the city and on the slopes.

For  example,The La Tache is a waterproof, 3-in-1 jacket that can be worn with The Corton or each piece separately. The company calls it "a clean, minimalist jacket with no zippers visible on the exterior." It's easy to see how Jiberish is trying to balance function with fashion. 

The company, which formerly produced its clothes in Denver, has moved production overseas. That's particularly important as the company moves into more technical clothing as most garment manufacturers in the U.S. can handle basic manufacturing but much of the more technical manufacturing processes and fabrics are harder to find domestically. The company sources technical fabrics from Switzerland, Japan and elsewhere.

The new line is already available online and is making its way into some of Jiberish's retail partners as well as its own stores in Boston, Denver and Park City, Utah.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

gSchool offers $500 for student referrals

The need for software engineers and programmers is so great in Denver that Galvanize's gSchool is offering a $500 finding fee to those that refer a friend or colleague to its advanced, immersive Golang Microservices (Go) class that's set to start Jan. 26, 2015. The 12-week program isn't cheap -- it's $15,000 -- but gSchool claims the program boasts a post-graduation hiring rate of 99 percent.

Referring someone alone isn't enough to reap the rewards. The referrals must be accepted into the course for the referrer to receive the $500. To qualify for the program applicants must have an advanced knowledge of coding.

"Unlike other gSchool immersive courses where we teach our students how to code, the Golang Microservices course expects students to arrive already knowing how to code, allowing for a more compact 12-week course," the organization explains on its website.

The course is designed to teach developers and engineers how to write software with a microservice architecture used by companies like Google, Docker, SendGrid, Pivotal and more. gSchool explains that Go is a newer, general purpose programming language that takes advantage of multi-core computing, which is making it a coding language of choice for many companies.

The school is offering 3 Colorado classes that start in January 2015. In addition to the Golang class in Denver it's offering 24-week full stack development classes in Denver and Boulder at Galvanize locations. The school is offering one full merit-based scholarship worth up to $20,000. It will also offer several partial scholarships for minorities, veterans and women worth up to $5,000.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver's COjacks offer alternative currency for gifts

COjacks, the Denver-based, Colorado-centric currency that launched late this summer, will be accepted along with U.S currency at the Community Connect Trade Association and Main Street Chamber of West Denver's Holiday Trade Show and Event at SPACE Gallery at 400 Santa Fe Dr. on Thurs. Nov. 20 from 4 to 8 p.m.

"The event is about 50 percent trade and 50 percent cash," explains Jaime Cangemi, chief marketing officer for the Main Street Chamber in Denver. Cangemi says she expects about 50 vendors and 500 buyers.

Instead of being confined to cash, however, the event allows people to barter or trade for locally made goods. It's also an ideal opportunity for an alternative currency like COjacks. "Their hope is for us to roll it out to the Community Connect Trade members there," Cangemi says.

Consumers can get COjacks at an introductory rate of five for $4. The retailers that accept COjacks, among them Backstage Coffee and The GrowHaus accept them at a rate equivalent to a dollar.

"It's all about the independent businesses," Cangemi explains. "The concept is if you were a retail shop and I bought something with COjacks and you then have COjacks in possession you cannot come back to the COjacks office to trade it for cash so you'll go out and find a member of COjacks you can spend it with. That's where the dollar going further makes sense."

Pro-level businesses that accept COjacks for 30 percent or more of a customer's purchase can receive three COjacks for every $1 they choose to exchange for COjacks. Businesses that accept 10 percent of a sale in COjacks can exchange $1 for two COjacks. Since they can't trade them back for U.S. dollars, the accepting retailers must spend them with other participating retailers.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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